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National

Michigan Lawmakers Play Catch-Up In Flint Water Crisis

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In Michigan, public health officials and politicians are playing catch-up with an ongoing crisis in Flint. Much of that city's drinking water has been tainted by lead. The regional EPA administrator offered her resignation today for the handling of Flint's water, and this week, Governor Rick Snyder apologized once again and promised to fix the problem. In an attempt at providing more transparency, Snyder released more than 200 pages of internal emails regarding Flint. In a moment, we'll get reaction to those emails from the city's mayor, but first, we go to Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta.

RICK PLUTA, BYLINE: At the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan in Flint, cases of bottled water are loaded onto pallets and lifted into trucks to be shipped to distribution centers. Local residents just don't trust the water that comes out of their faucets. William Kerr directs the food bank. He says the demand has exploded since the state acknowledged there is lead in Flint's drinking water.

WILLIAM KERR: Prior to the crisis, on any given day, we'd go through maybe, like, one or two pallets of water a day. At - our current expectations now is we will be doing 10 to 15 truckloads of water a week now. So it's - and that will be just the tip of the iceberg.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICK SNYDER: We are seeing improvements in the water supply, but we don't want people to believe it's appropriate to drink at this point.

PLUTA: That's Governor Rick Snyder telling CBS News that people should assume the tap water in Flint still is not safe. Snyder has endured criticism over the state's response to the lead contamination crisis which was caused at least in part by decisions made by emergency managers to switch water supplies while the city was under state control.

Now the governor has asked the state legislature to approve $28 million in emergency spending to address the immediate needs of Flint, mostly bottled water, filters and lead-testing kits. Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof says that bill is making its way through the legislature and could land on the governor's desk next week.

ARLAN MEEKHOF: We're trying to be compassionate at this point. We have citizens of Michigan who don't have safe and clean drinking water. That's our first priority.

PLUTA: It could take years before the effects of lead poisoning show in children - things like learning disabilities and neurological disorders. That's why State Senator Jim Ananich, who is from Flint, says he also wants to see better health services, more nutrition assistance and education.

JIM ANANICH: The importance of getting this done is critical. I mean, the citizens of my community are begging for help.

PLUTA: And Governor Snyder says all of that will be part of the response as his administration tries to create both the perception and the reality that it's finally getting in front of the crisis in Flint. For NPR News, I'm Rick Pluta in Lansing, Mich. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.